"Generations" Titans Return Sawback Toy Review


General Information:
Release Date: December 2016
Price Point: $4.99 (depending on retailer)
Retailer: General (Toys R Us, Target, Wal-Mart etc.)
Accessories: Sawback Titan Master, Lion/Shield/Vehicle figure

Very early on in the life of the Transformers line the toy line began to move away from the sole gimmick of transformation. Once figures like Combiners were introduced it became clear Transformers could be more than just a robot that changed from one form to another. In 1987 Hasbro and Takara took a bold step into a new play pattern by introducing Headmasters. Headmasters were Transformers whose heads detached and became smaller figures that could then pilot or ride the Transformers in beast and vehicle forms (or in a couple cases, their battle station or city forms!). Now almost thirty years after they were originally introduced the Headmaster gimmick has returned in a new form: Titan Masters!

Titan Masters focuses on the return of small robots to Cybertron that can unlock incredible power, and it is up to the Transformers to merge with them and harness those abilities and strengths. In some ways the story resembles "Armada" which had a similar conceit for the Mini-Cons. In true "Generations" fashion, Titans Return gives us characters from the Headmasters era in new forms that pay homage to the originals.

The Titan Master figures are packaged on a bubble card. The front of the card is universal across the assortment. It features Fortress Maximus' head floating above his body. To the side is a black bar with the "Generations" logo above the vertical "Transformers" logo. The insert in the bubble has a render of the figure in head mode. The head and vehicle are in the area under Fortress Maximus' head. The back is almost universal in that it features a diagram of the Titan Master "eco system" showing that the heads can attach to Deluxe, Voyager and Leader Classes. The difference however is in the bar code, which is specific to each character.


In the Generation One era there was a set of six Headmasters figures exclusive to Japan. These were not redecos of existing figures, they were full fledged new figures that were meant to connect to any Headmaster. Three were humanoid, three were animals. One of these was a robotic lion that transformed into a head named...wait for it...Lione (no, really). Because of how rare these figures are, they command quite a lot on the secondary market. For a long time these characters were for the most part consigned to an obscure part of Transformers history. However, the folks at Hasbro and Takara Tomy had other ideas! Lione has taken a new form as a Titan Master with a beast/vehicle/shield partner. Due to trademark reasons, the name Sawback (previously used in "Robots in Disguise") has been given to this figure, but its G1 inspiration is clear just by looking at it.

Robot Mode:
Unlike his G1 self, Sawback is not a four legged lion robot that becomes a head. Instead he is a humanoid shaped robot with two arms, two legs, a torso and legs etc. However, the designers did not forget the inspiration for this figure. His head is actually a feline head complete with a snout and narrow animal eyes. On top of that his feet are sculpted to look like paws! The rest of the figure is more like a standard Transformer complete with robotic arms and vents on his chest. If he just had a regular robot head and feet he would be pretty generic, but the feline head and feet make this figure very distinctive.

This figure is cast in orange and yellow plastic. These colors were inspired by Lione's colors and they look nice and bright. The head, arms and lower legs are orange while the torso and thighs are yellow. There are no painted details for Sawback's robot mode which is unfortunate, but standard for the "Titans Return" line.

Sawback has five points of articulation: the head, arms, hips and knees. The lower legs are sculpted as one piece, so the legs wind up moving together. When my Sawback came out of package the lower leg pieces were not quite attached properly at the knees (hence his "lean" in my photo). I did fiddle with it afterward and it is fine now, but I felt it worth mentioning.

Transformation to Head Mode:
Push the arms down. Swing the legs up at the hips, then the knees. When attaching the head to a larger figure, I recommend having Sawback's head facing the same direction as the larger face.

Head Mode:
When Takara went with a theme in the 80's, they committed. It wasn't enough that Lione was a mechanical lion in beast mode, he transformed into a head that had lion details on the "helmet" section! This included a lion head on top and arms with paws at the end on the sides. When the designers decided to create Sawback, they replicated this design! Like Lione, Sawback has a lion head on the top of the "helmet" section along with legs and paws from a non-existent beast mode on the sides of the head. This was unexpected and brilliant. After all, the lion head from the robot mode does not actually form the top of the helmet, so the lion head (and leg/paw) details were sculpted just to pay homage to Lione and I think that's awesome! Even better, his face is also based on Lione's. Lione's face had thin eyes, a long nose and long face. Sawback's face looks the same way (though at tad less "stretched out" looking). I absolutely love this head sculpt.

Most of the head is orange plastic. The face is painted yellow and the eyes are blue. Lione had two shades of orange so Sawback isn't G1 accurate in color but I think he looks great. The orange/yellow contrast works better than two shades of orange in my opinion.

Beast Review

Beast Mode:
Sawback includes a vehicle that has three modes, one of which is a robotic lion. The front is distinctly based on a lion including a wide snout, wide nose and a mane that surrounds the edges of the face. Sawback himself attaches to the back of the mane in his head mode thus creating a full mane. The legs have both vehicle mode parts and animal-like details on them such as the paws at the end. The sides of the lion feature wing like structures that are reminiscent of G1 Steeljaw's weapons. Overall it's a fun design and looks cool as well as fitting the theme of the character.

The beast mode mostly shows off yellow plastic on the legs. Other parts such as the wings and mane are orange plastic. Silver paint is used on the sides of the wings. Yellow is used for the face and its eyes are blue. I say "it" since in this case Sawback is the Titan Master vehicle and nothing on the packaging indicates this vehicle/beast is sentient.

There are three points of articulation in this mode. The two front legs move at the same time on one hinge. The rear legs both move independent of each other. While Sawback himself forms part of the mane, there is a gap left on the back of the beast where you could seat another Titan Master. There are no pegs to hold it there, but one can fit.

Transformation to Jet Mode:

  1. Detach Sawback and transform him into robot mode.
  2. Swing the lion head back.
  3. Swing the front legs back.
  4. Swing the wing pieces out to the sides so the orange parts face upward.
  5. Push the rear legs back a bit.

Jet Mode:
This is one of those modes that amuses me because if I handed it to someone with zero context, it would probably take them a minute to figure out what it's supposed to be. I like to refer to these modes as a "because we say so" mode. Don't get me wrong, this vehicle form does have some jet-like details. There are wings on the sides with blasters on the ends. The front section actually does have a cockpit sculpted into it and it is flanked by what look like weapon pods. There is even what looks like a nosecone in the front. The rear beast mode legs also look like they are acting like rear stabilizer fins (I'm using my imagination here). There's something kind of silly and retro about this mode, just like Sawback himself so I kind of dig it, but I admit it looks odd.

This mode mostly shows off yellow plastic with orange on the wings. A bit of silver is used to paint the weapon barrels on the wings. The shame is I think if the cockpit details or weapon pods had been painted it would have helped enhance the fantasy of this being a vehicle but unpainted the yellow makes these details kind of fade into the background.

The open area of this vehicle is a seat that allows a Titan Master figure to sit in it. Look inside and you'll see two Titan Master pegs for the Titan Master to attach to. This helps secure the figure so it does not go flying when kids play with it.

Transformation to Shield Mode (from Lion Mode):

  1. Make sure Sawback is detached.
  2. Swing the lion head back.
  3. Swing the front legs forward.
  4. Swing the rear legs down.
  5. Swing the wings down and in so the silver parts face forward.
  6. Figures with 5mm ports can hold the shield using the 5mm peg in the back.

Shield Mode:
The shield mode may just seem like an accessory, but in many ways it is a more convincing mode than the jet mode. The shield mode looks great. It's large enough that it looks plausible as a shield and the lion head in the middle is a really cool bit of ornamentation that makes it distinctive.

This mode shows off much more orange plastic than the jet mode, though a fair bit of yellow still peeks out on the sides. The panels that form most of the shield's lower half are silver so they offer a nice visual break from the orange and yellow colors.

The only weird part about the shield is the way a figure would have to hold it. Since the peg comes up rather than angling down, any figure that holds it has to be able to have a 5mm peg slipped in at the bottom of the hand and pushed up. For the most part all Transformers do this (though there are exceptions).

Final Thoughts:
I absolutely love this figure and vehicle/beast set. Sawback is a distinctive looking Titan Master and the lion/vehicle/shield is fun to play with. Kudos to the designers for reaching back in time to the more obscure corners of the Headmasters era for inspiration!


  • Distinctive sculpt.
  • Pays homage to G1 Lione.
  • A "modern" way to own a character who was rare in G1.
  • Lion and shield modes are fun.


  • Needs more deco.
  • Jet mode is relatively weak.
  • Lower legs piece needed to be adjusted out of the package.

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